The Residents - The Gingerbread Man(Preserved Edition) [Cherry Red/ MVD Audio/ New Ralph - 2021]
Originally released back in 1995 The Gingerbread Man was the 19th studio album from The Residents. It saw the avant-pop collective deepening and expanding the character-based side of their work, and it was also their first fully computer-enhanced release too. Here from the folks at Cherry Red, MVD Audio, New Ralph is the ‘pREServed’ release of the album. This new deluxe three-CD release offers up a newly remastered version of the album and a bumper selection of rare/ unreleased recordings, including a disc worth of never-released song sketches.
The releases packaging follows on from other releases in this series- so the three discs( two in their own slip sleeves, one on the gatefold) are presented in an eight-panel thick card mini gatefold. Also included in the set a twenty-four-page inlay booklet- this features a new six-page write up about the album and the period it was recorded. We get a full album a character write-up/ pictures and a rundown of what the bonus stuff is. So, another nicely presented edition to the growing ‘pREsevered’ series which thus far has taken in thirteen releases looking at The Residents back-catalogue.
Appearing in 1994, and been the collectives first album of completely new material since the 1990’s Freakshow. The Gingerbread Man was the projects most character-based/ theatrical release to date- it was a ten-track album, with each of the nine tracks focusing on a certain character, and an outro track topping it off. It was released in two different formats- a CD Rom album, where you could watch computer animations for each of the nine characters. And just a plain CD release. I’ll have to admit, I was always slightly underwhelmed by the album my self- as it felt like one of the collective lesser albums, due to the repeated musical themes and largely spoken/ half-sung feel of the tracks. So it’s nice to see a reissue of the album with this three-disc set, and I must say while it still doesn’t stand as my favourite release of this period in the Residents career- I do appreciate it more than I did.
Musically the album largely follows on the electronic/ 1990’s midi sound of Freakshow- but pushes further with a very synthetic sound that’s somewhere between wonky muzak, carnival music, theatrical music, & fixed-to-churning electronica. The album often repeats its main theme, and this is a jaunting little tune that goes along with the ‘you can’t catch me I’m The Gingerbread Man’ lines, though each track has its own individual themes, which are often close/ connected to the main theme. Vocally the sound is very, very theatrical- with a blend of the singing male Residents, and female vocalist taking on the female characters- often we drop into spoken/ acted word elements, as the character's story are told- and these are in order The Weaver, The Dying Oilman, The Confused Transsexual, The Sold-Out Artist, The Ascetic, The Old Soldier, The Aging Musician, The Butcher, The Old Woman. In total the original album lasts a fairly shot thirty-eight minutes and is really going to most interest to those who enjoy the theatrical/ more wonky 'n' showy side of the collectives sound.
So the discs are laid out thus- on disc one we get the original album ten tracks, and seven live performances of album tracks from throughout the years, and each of these are worth a play, as this been The Residents you get often fairly different takes on the tracks- with this first disc having a runtime of seventy-five minutes
Moving on and disc two is entitled The Fat Boy Tape, and this is basically a collection of sonic snippets produced by the collective between 1993- early 1994. Some of the musical themes would appear on The Gingerbread Man and some would appear on 1995’s Hunters- which was a soundtrack that the collective did for the Discovery Chanel. This disc takes in thirty-two snippets/ ideas- and each of these runs mostly run between thirty seconds and just over a minute. And it’s a wonderful snapshot into the collectives sonic creation- with some really memorable/ off-kilter tunes/ atmosphere along the way- sure due to the shortness of the track it’s very scattered shot/ random, but I love that. This CD is topped off with the complete instrumental version of The Gingerbread Man album.
The third and final disc in the set takes sixteen tracks in total and seventy-one minutes of music. Taking up the lion share of the disc we have the twelve tracks of Hunters- this was a 1995 score The Resident’s did for the discovery channel for a nature doc about predators in nature. The sound here is similar to the instrument side of The Gingerbread Man- with its blend of wonky Muzak, carnival music, and off-kilter- to- moody electronica. Along the way, there are some memorable and rewarding moments here, though, on the whole, it’s a minor Residents release. This disc is topped off with the four tracks from the 1995 EP Prelude To "The Teds" – The Ted’s was an unfinished project The Residents were working on with David Lynch.
In finishing it’s always great to see a new addition to the ‘pREServed’ series appearing- and once again with this release we get a great remastering of the original album and a great selection of extras. As I mentioned early on The Gingerbread Man, was always one of my lesser liked Residents albums, but I must say this reissue has made me appreciate it more in the context of the project back catalogue. So certainly, a release for long term Rez-heads, but maybe not for those who have yet to get hooked on the collective distinctive blend of sonic oddness.Roger Batty